Requirement to Maintain a Public Inspection File

The FCC's rules require all broadcast stations and applicants for new stations to maintain a file available for public inspection. These rules are located in Sections 73.3526 (commercial broadcast services) and 73.3527 (noncommercial educational broadcast services) of the Commission's rules, 47 C.F.R. §§ 73.3526 and 73.3527. The public inspection file generally must be maintained at the station's main studio. An applicant for a new station or change of community must maintain its file at any accessible place in the proposed community of license or at its proposed main studio.

Sections 73.3526 and 73.3527 of the Commission's rules, 47 C.F.R. §§ 73.3526 and 73.3527, are not applicable to Low Power FM and Low Power television stations and applicants. See 47 C.F.R. §§ 73.801 and 74.480.

Access to Material in the File

The public inspection file shall be available for public inspection at any time during regular business hours. All or part of the file may be maintained in a computer database, as long as a computer terminal is made available, at the location of the file, to members of the public who wish to review the file. Material in the public inspection file shall be made available for printing or machine reproduction upon request made in person. The applicant, permittee, or licensee may specify the location for printing or reproduction, require the requesting party to pay the reasonable cost thereof, and may require guarantee of payment in advance (e.g., by requiring a deposit, obtaining credit card information, or any other reasonable method). Requests for copies must be fulfilled within a reasonable period of time, which generally should not exceed seven (7) days.

The applicant, permittee, or licensee who maintains its main studio and public file outside its community of license must:

 

  • Make available to persons within its geographic service area, by mail upon telephone request, photocopies of documents in the file, excluding the political file, and the station must pay postage;

     

     

  • Mail the most recent version of "The Public and Broadcasting" to any member of the public who requests a copy; and

     

     

  • Be prepared to assist members of the public in identifying the documents they may ask to be sent to them by mail, for example, by describing to the caller, if asked, the period covered by a particular report and the number of pages included in the report.

     

     

Contents of the file

The specific documents required to be maintained in the public inspection file are enumerated in Sections 73.3526 and 73.3527 of the Commission's rules, 47 C.F.R. §§ 73.3526 and 73.3527. Information may also be obtained from the Media Bureau's website, which includes a copy of "The Public and Broadcasting."

Filing Complaints

Complaints alleging the failure of a broadcast station to maintain a complete public inspection file, or to make such file available for public inspection during normal business hours, should be sent to the Federal Communications Commission, Investigations & Hearings Division, 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20554. Complaints should include the call sign and location of the station, and the address where complainant attempted to view a public file. A complaint should also describe the circumstances surrounding the complainant's inability to gain access to the station's public inspection file, or to view or obtain certain documents required to be maintained in that file, including the date and time complainant attempted to inspect the file and the specific documents which the complainant was unable to view or obtain. 

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